Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: The Stark Traffic Safety Divide

What We’re Following

Crossroads: The United States is on track to report its highest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1990, with an estimated 6,227 deaths in the preliminary 2018 data. Researchers say the surge in deaths shows that something has gone terribly wrong in the last 10 years.

There are many clues as to why. Americans are spending more time driving, smartphones have introduced new distractions, and more lethal heavy-duty SUVs have proliferated. And old dangers that inhibit drivers�like darkness and alcohol�have remained stubbornly pervasive.

U.S. Pedestrian Fatalities 1990-2018

(Governors Highway Safety Association)

On the other side of the windshield, people inside America’s cars and trucks have never been better protected. As pedestrian deaths increased by 35 percent from 2008 to 2017, the number of all other traffic deaths dropped by 6 percent. The pedestrian picture isn’t entirely bleak: Local Vision Zero plans that are specifically geared at improving pedestrian safety appear to have been effective, as the 10 largest cities reported a 15 percent decline in pedestrian fatalities in 2017. But those efforts have concentrated on city downtowns, while a growing number of fatal crashes are happening in the suburbs and exurbs. CityLab’s Sarah Holder has the story: The Stark Traffic Safety Divide

�Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Minneapolis’ Snow Parking Ban Winks at its Pro-Transit Future

Sorry, drivers. Record-breaking February snowfall has forced the Twin Cities to remove more than a third of their street parking.

David Montgomery

How Marvel Packs a Universe Into New York City

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a massive mythos with the Big Apple at its center. Here’s what Spider-Man, Iron Man, and other superheroes say about their city.

Nolan Gray

Jane Jacobs and the Power of Women Planners

In a field dominated by men, Jacobs broke through with groundbreaking, decidedly female ideas about how cities should work

Roberta Brandes Gratz

A Major Chicago Public Housing Lawsuit Ends. The Segregation It Confronted Lives On.

Over 50 years after the “Gautreaux� case began, the city’s neighborhoods remain divided along racial lines.

Sophie Kasakove

Sex, Vomit, and Criminalized Pedestrians: Is This the Future of Self-Driving Cars?

In Episode 2 of our new podcast Technopolis, we take you on a tour of autonomous vehicles’ little-considered effects.

Molly Turner and Jim Kapsis


What We’re Reading

The Midwest will likely raise gas taxes�and widen highways (Streetsblog)

Airbnb is buying into the hotel industry (Quartz)

Is Chicago done with “tribal� voting? (Chicago magazine)

Dollar Tree was once considered “Amazon-proof.� Now it’s closing hundreds of stores. (Vox)

People bought the “panhandle murder� story because they think the worst of Baltimore (Washington Post)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Why Cities Want to Ban Cashless Retail

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***

What We’re Following

Keep the change: Uber. Sweetgreen. Amazon Go. More businesses are opting to go cashless, and trends show Americans are hopping on board: In 2017, debit and credit card payments made up 48 percent of all transactions. Even more conventional restaurant and retail establishments have cut cash, citing increased efficiency and safety. But lawmakers at the local level are concerned that the cash-free economy will discriminate against low-income people. Philadelphia recently became the first city to ban cashless businesses, and San Francisco and D.C. are eyeing similar measures.

New York City is the latest to consider such a bill. With nearly 12 percent of its residents living unbanked�often people of color and undocumented immigrants�the policy brings a bigger question to life: Is refusing to accept cash a form of racial discrimination? “In the end, I think the need for equity outweighs the efficiency gains of a cashless business model,� says the city councilmember sponsoring New York’s legislation. “Human rights takes precedence over efficiency gains.� Today on CityLab: Citing Civil Rights, Cities Are Banning Cashless Retail

�Andrew Small


More on CityLab

The Persistent Economic Advantage of America’s Suburbs

A new study finds that suburban neighborhoods outperform urban ones across the board.

Richard Florida

Oh, the Places Mosquitoes Will Go!

Because of climate change, Aedes aegypti and Asian tiger mosquitoes will move north in large numbers, a new study finds.

Linda Poon

What the Fall of the Newseum Says About News, and Museums

The D.C. museum devoted to a free press will sell its building to Johns Hopkins after years of financial struggle. But the Newseum could still have a bright future.

Kriston Capps

To Fund the Green New Deal, Understand How the New Deal Actually Worked

The narrative of big-spending government programs isn’t quite right. The New Deal took great strides to encourage private investment.

Louis Hyman

The Good, Bad, and Ugly Public Transit Seat Covers of the World

An international roundup of bus, train, and subway seat designs, based on CityLab’s rules for a commuter-friendly textile.

Feargus O’Sullivan


Rue the Day

(Christophe Ena/AP)

The residents of Paris’s Rue Crémieux don’t give a damn about your Instagram. Filled with small pastel-painted houses, weathered cobblestones, and blooming window boxes, the car-free street near Bastille has become a popular destination to strike a pose, leaving residents’ doorways blocked by influencers and yoga aficionados alike. Now the people who live there have had enough. They’re asking the city to put up a gate to keep visitors out on nights and weekends.

With #ruecremieux now linking to over 31,000 images, all the photobombing does sound wearisome. “We sit down to eat and just outside we have people taking photos�rappers who take two hours to film a video right beneath the window, or bachelorette parties who scream for an hour. Frankly, it’s exhausting,� one resident recently told radio station France Info. CityLab’s Feargus O’Sullivan has the story: The Special Curse of Living on Instagram’s Favorite Street


What We’re Reading

Overlooked no more: Julia Morgan, pioneering female architect (New York Times)

What a fortune cookie factory tells us about San Francisco rent (BBC News)

If the world’s nighttime lights were mountains (Washington Post)

Your landlord turns your apartment into a smart home. Now what? (CNET)

Opinion: Cars are killing us. Within 10 years, we must phase them out. (The Guardian)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Why Politicians Should Take Transit

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***

What We’re Following

A-okay: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez caught some flak this weekend after a New York Post article detailed her transportation choices, which include a fair amount of rental cars and ride-hailing services while promoting the Green New Deal. Seemingly only in New York do people yell at politicians for not riding transit�it’s a charge levied against Mayor Bill de Blasio on the regular, too. And it’s true that both officials might benefit from sharing in what their constituents deal with day to day on the MTA.

But there’s another reason why AOC should be taking the bus or the train: It’d be a good publicity stunt for her, as it is for all local leaders. In a country where less than 5 percent of Americans take public transit, there’s a nationwide hypocrisy to fix, CityLab’s Laura Bliss writes:

Like eating, doing yard work, or going to the supermarket, getting around is just about the most normal-looking and thus relatable thing political figures can appear to do. In a county that’s long elected presidents based on the “beer test,� such moments of down-to-earthiness are occasions to connect with voters and constituents.

Read Laura’s story: Yes, It’s A Stunt. But Politicians Should Ride Transit Anyway

Pittsburgh readers: Join us for an event next Wednesday on “What It Means to Be Protected in Urban Spaces.� CityLab’s Brentin Mock will interview writer Kiese Laymon about his recent memoir, Heavy, followed by a panel moderated by the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation. Details and tickets here.

�Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Mapping Micro-Level Segregation Reveals a Neighborhood’s Real Diversity

MIT Media Lab’s new interactive “Atlas of Inequality� shows that “segregation is not just about where you live, but what you do.”

Tanvi Misra

A Town Made By Cars Awaits Life After General Motors

It wasn’t long ago that GM’s Hamtramck plant was being hailed as a Detroit comeback story. Now it’s closing, and the town around it faces the end of its manufacturing era.

Nicholas Wu

Your City Is Full of Ways to Get an Incidental Workout

New research shows the health benefits of short bursts of incidental physical activity. Here’s how to sneak in some exercise into the normal course of your day.

Linda Poon

Why an Indian City Is Turning Old Buses Into Bathrooms

In Pune, refurbished buses offer something that many local women need: a clean, safe place to use the restroom away from home.

Romita Saluja

A Lagos Film Series Recasts a Neighborhood and Shapes a Writer

James Baldwin, Ousmane Sembène, Maya Angelou, and the dynamic discussions they provoke help a young writer find her tribe at a film screening series in Nigeria.

Kay Ugwuede


Tokyo Drift

Ōita Prefectural Library was one of Isozaki’s first commissions. (Photo courtesy of Yasuhiro Ishimoto)

Japanese architect Arata Isozaki is this year’s winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize�the field’s top honor. The 87-year-old architect was a teenager when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, an event that had a profound effect on him. “My first experience of architecture was the void of architecture, and I began to consider how people might rebuild their homes and cities,� he said. His career began with the postwar rebuilding of Japan, before breaking out as an international figure in the 1980s and early ‘90s. Over six decades, Isozaki has demonstrated uncommon versatility, and, CityLab’s Amanda Kolson Hurley writes, “Isozaki’s architecture is impossible to boil down to a signature style.�


What We’re Reading

ICE has kept tabs on “anti-Trump� protesters in New York City (The Nation)

Prosecutors don’t plan to charge Uber in self-driving car crash (New York Times)

Dallas DOT just completed its first year as a transit agency (Next City)

Self-driving cars may be likelier to hit black people than white people (Vox)

From video game to day job: How “SimCity� inspired a generation of city planners (Los Angeles Times)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Does Foreclosure Affect How We Vote?

What We’re Following

Distress signals: The surprise results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election led many people to wonder if the 2008 financial crisis changed the nation’s political trajectory. Housing researcher Deirdre Pfeiffer questioned in particular if housing distress had an effect on people’s politics and voting patterns between the 2006 and 2010 elections in Maricopa County, Arizona. Drilling down to the neighborhood level across the Phoenix region, the short answer she found was: Yes, it did.

Holding all else equal, neighborhoods with higher foreclosure rates were less likely to vote Republican in the second election, and there was a leftward shift in the hardest-hit areas. “We can’t really say that what was going on in Arizona was a factor in Trump’s election,� Pfeiffer told CityLab’s Tanvi Misra. “Our research is suggestive that what was going on in the housing market may have contributed to that outcome in other places in 2016.� Read the story today on CityLab: Does Housing Distress Affect How We Vote?

�Andrew Small


More on CityLab

The Geography of America’s Mobile and ‘Stuck,’ Mapped

The United States is facing a new class distinction: those who are mobile across state lines, and those who are stuck.

Richard Florida

The Special Curse of Living on Instagram’s Favorite Street

Instagrammers love the colorful homes on Paris’s Rue Cremieux. Frustrated residents want to install gates to lock them out.

Feargus O’Sullivan

Is There a Better Way to Count the Homeless?

I hit the streets for HUD’s Point-in-Time homeless count to help get a snapshot of Oakland’s growing unsheltered homeless population. But one thing was missing.

Alastair Boone

The NRA Is Targeting San Jose’s Proposed Gun Law

Mayor Sam Liccardo wants gun stores to record all sales transactions, in an effort to prevent “straw purchases� that contribute to illegal firearm trafficking.

Kriston Capps

Zulu Mardi Gras Blackface: Heritage or Hate?

The reasons for granting the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club of New Orleans an annual waiver on blackface during Mardi Gras are growing paler by the moment.

Brentin Mock


AV Club

Madison McVeigh/CityLab

Autonomous vehicles may be coming sooner than you think. Even if it takes a while until AVs are ready to transport people all on their own, they could soon become vehicles for delivering your groceries or takeout. All of this will pose new challenges for cities, from how we might change laws for pedestrians to what we might do in the cars when we’re not driving them.

In the second episode of CityLab’s Technopolis podcast, hosts Molly Turner and Jim Kapsis take a tour of autonomous vehicles’ little-considered effects. Check out the latest episode, Sex, Vomit, and Criminalized Pedestrians: Is This the Future of Self-Driving Cars?

Listen and subscribe to Technopolis: Apple Podcasts / Stitcher / Google Play


What We’re Reading

Ben Carson says he intends to leave HUD at the end of Trump’s term (Washington Post)

Chicago is sinking (Chicago Tribune)

Pritzker Prize goes to Arata Isozaki, designer for a postwar world (New York Times)

How federal disaster money favors the rich (NPR)

In Central Valley towns, California’s bullet train isn’t an idea: “It’s people’s lives� (Los Angeles Times)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: The Right to ‘Exist, Flourish, and Naturally Evolve’

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***

What We’re Following

Testing the waters: In a special election this week, the residents of Toledo, Ohio, took the unusual step of adopting a bill of rights for a lake. A ballot measure will amend the city’s charter to establish that Lake Erie has the right to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve,� giving legal rights to the source of drinking water for 11 million people.

Toldeo’s move makes it the first municipality in the country to adopt a “rights-of-nature� law over a certain ecosystem. The action is already being challenged in court, but if it stands, it will allow citizens to sue polluters on the Great Lake’s behalf without having to demonstrate injury to a human. Past problems with Lake Erie’s water quality prompted activists to find new ways to safeguard it. “For three days in 2014, we lost access to our drinking water, and we didn’t see any action come out of that,� one organizer tells CityLab’s Nicole Javorsky, “We wanted to do something for ourselves.�

�Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Did AOC’s Questions on Trump’s Real Estate Valuations Unlock His Tax Returns?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grilled Michael Cohen on the real estate dealings of Donald Trump. Cohen’s replies may open access to Trump’s elusive tax returns.

Tanvi Misra and Kriston Capps

First Nations in Canada Are Demanding Property Rights

Changing or abolishing the Indian Act in order to allow private land ownership may seem like a logical solution, but it’s not without its criticisms.

Tracey Lindeman

The High Price of Cheap Gasoline

When gas prices stopped falling, Americans again began to drive less.

Joe Cortright

What Cities Are Getting Wrong About Public Transportation

Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.

Andrew Small

Welcome to Technopolis

In Episode 1 of our new podcast, we ask: Why did investors pour so much money into urban tech? And is all that venture capital good for the people in cities?

Molly Turner and Jim Kapsis


Red Carpet Treatment

Let them see red. (SFMTA)

There’s a simple reason why commuters typically prefer trains over buses: Buses have to share. The rubber-tired coaches could almost run as reliably as rail if not for all those other vehicles on the road. That’s why city leaders should be bullish about building dedicated bus lanes, or to “tactical transit lanes,� to whip up bus-only infrastructure on the cheap, according to a new report from UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies. Simply by running pilots with cones, a city can figure how much faster buses can run when they have their own lane. Once people see the benefits, cities can lay down a coat of red paint and just add service. CityLab’s Laura Bliss has the how-to guide: To Build a Better Bus Lane, Just Paint It


What We’re Reading

New York leaders urge Bezos to reconsider Amazon dumping the city (Bloomberg)

How tiny shotgun houses could help solve Dallas’s housing crisis (Dallas News)

Op-ed: The new “dream home� should be a condo (New York Times)

“They’re cutting everything�: As coal disappears, Appalachians lose access to basic services (Southerly)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Are Dog Parks Exclusionary?

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***

What We’re Following

Barks and rec: When it’s completed, the dog park nestled inside Chicago’s Lincoln Yards mega-development could be the toniest pet playground in the nation. With its flashy rendering, the design idea puts a whole new spin on letting a place go to the dogs. “My first visual reaction is: That is a lot of white people with dogs,� said the editor of Chicago Architect. The fancy doggo park is actually one of the least divisive features of the project, but it serves as a small marker of a larger disparity: Almost all of Chicago’s dog parks fall in areas that are majority-white, as shown below.

Back in the day, a dog park wasn’t an amenity one might expect in a neighborhood. Now these off-leash spaces are among the fastest-growing parks in America’s cities. But as parks and recreation departments face growing demand for dog parks, often at the expense of other amenities such as playgrounds for kids, it means asking big questions about public space and inclusion that don’t get any smaller when the parcels do. Today on CityLab, Kriston Capps asks: Are Dog Parks Exclusionary?

�Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Las Vegas Gambles on a ‘Smart City’ Technology Makeover

The casino mecca is piloting countless new technologies in public spaces in a bid to boost its smart-city brand. Worrying about the risks will come later.  

Laura Bliss

Black Cities Ain’t Going Nowhere

A new Brookings Institution report shows how black migration patterns have been reshaping the urban landscape, particularly in the South.

Brentin Mock

The Real Powerhouses That Drive the World’s Economy

It’s not nation states or even cities, but mega-regions�combinations of multiple metro areas�that are the real forces powering the global economy.

Richard Florida

Berlin Will Spend €2 Billion Per Year to Improve Public Transit

The German capital plans to make major investments to expand bus and rail networks, boost frequency, and get ahead of population growth. Are you jealous yet?

Feargus O’Sullivan

Portland Promises a ‘Green’ Highway Expansion. It’s Not.

Here’s why Oregon officials claim that widening Interstate 5 will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Henry Grabar


What We’re Reading

When does a crash become a crime? (Texas Monthly)

America’s cities are running on software from the 1980s (Bloomberg)

How big tech is automating the climate crisis (Gizmodo)

More pedestrians and cyclists died in 2016 than in any of the past 25 years (Washington Post)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Will Elizabeth Warren Bring Fair Housing to the 2020 Race?

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What We’re Following

Housing is 2020: On New Year’s Eve, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she plans to enter the 2020 race for the White House. Even several months before that, she had hinted as much by releasing a slew of ambitious legislative proposals outlining her platform, and one of those bills could put the nation’s affordability crisis center stage in the next presidential election. Warren’s bill, the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, would establish funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the deep racial disparities left by redlining and to help borrowers in communities hit hard by foreclosures. CityLab’s Kriston Capps has the rundown on the housing policy that, by any other name, might be called reparations.

It also looks like Senator Warren won’t be running alone for long. Julián Castro, who served as HUD secretary for President Obama, is set to make a campaign announcement next Saturday in San Antonio, where he was born, raised, and served as mayor from 2009 to 2014. Meanwhile, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti is contemplating whether he can govern America’s second-largest city while running for president. Throw in other prospective candidates like South Bend’s Pete Buttigieg, New Orleans’s Mitch Landrieu, Newark’s Cory Booker, and New York’s Michael Bloomberg and the 2020 Democratic field could be packed with current and former mayors.

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

California Moves, Haltingly, Toward a Post-Lawn Future

The last, severe drought caused many Californians to rip out their lawns, but some now believe the emergency is over.

Aleksandra Appleton

Co-op City: How New York Made Large-Scale Affordable Housing Work

The mega-complex of middle-income housing in the Bronx, which just turned 50, offers a (mostly) successful alternative to the speculative housing market.

Adam Tanaka

New Jersey Is Getting Sued Over School Segregation

Backed by a mix of civil rights groups, the suit represents a rare legal challenge: Since Brown v. Board of Education, most segregation cases have been decided in federal court.

Rachel M. Cohen

Who’s Afraid of Amazon’s Video Doorbell?

The tech company’s proposed facial-recognition camera system could be a civil libertarian’s nightmare.

Tanvi Misra

Why Are So Many People In San Jose Fighting Housing for Teachers?

The school system’s plan to build affordable apartment units for the city’s teachers has triggered a fierce backlash in one affluent area.

Sarah Holder


What We’re Reading

Uber is boring now (Quartz)

These rural panhandle towns should be shrinking. But thanks to immigrants, they’re booming (Texas Observer)

Seattle made a dead-end street into a basketball court (Streetsblog)

Video: Why fixing the U.S. bail system is tricky (Vox)

Nearly two dozen people are running to be New York City’s public advocate (New York Times)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Des Moines Wants to Be the Affordable City for Artists

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What We’re Following

Iowa canvas: Ask someone to name a U.S. city with a booming arts scene, and one answer you may not hear is Des Moines, Iowa. (Unless they’re running for president.) The state capital has long been the realm of insurance workers and ag execs who flee the desolate city center after business hours, but the city now boasts the largest nonprofit arts space in the country. As it builds out, Mainframe Studios already has a long waitlist for affordable artist workspaces in its 160,000-square-foot former insurance call center, in a downtown that’s doubled in population since 2007.

Mainframe’s First Friday events draw hundreds of attendees each month. (Sean Farley/Courtesy of Mainframe Studios)

Now art is part of the strategy to keep the city affordable. “Every day, we see headlines about artists being priced out, and it’s even happening here in little ol’ Des Moines,” said Siobhan Spain, director of Mainframe. “We want to learn from what’s going on in other cities, and we think we’ve created a model that approaches the problem in a proactive way.” Today on CityLab: Des Moines Wants to Be the Affordable City for Artists

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

The British Towns That Aren’t Breaking Up With Europe

After World War II, town twinning was an expression of European solidarity. Even as Britain exits the E.U., many in the U.K. want the tradition to continue.

Hettie O’Brien

When a Jail Becomes a Homeless Shelter

King County, Washington’s plan stoked concerns about the link between homelessness and incarceration. Local leaders say they have a moral obligation to do what they can.

Hallie Golden

The Return of London’s 1930s Futuristic Subway Car

The London Transport Museum is bringing three charming-but-antiquated Q Stock carriages back to life.

Feargus O’Sullivan

How to Push Kid-Friendly Transit in a Rapidly Urbanizing City

An advocate and mom in Dakar, Senegal, talks about elevating a child-focused policy agenda, in a city that’s still struggling with basic infrastructure.

Molly McCluskey

It’s Time to Start Eating Roadkill

Alaskans are eager to salvage meat from deer and moose struck by vehicles. Why won’t it catch on in the Lower 48?

Ella Jacobson


What We’re Reading

A Green New Deal for cars might be easier than you think (The Week)

Atlanta considers covering highways with parks (Wall Street Journal)

Here’s the most affluent town in each state (Business Insider)

The rise and fall of China’s cycling empires (Foreign Policy)

Judge blocks New York City law aimed at curbing Airbnb rentals (New York Times)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: How to Fund NYC’s Subway Repairs

What We’re Following

New Year, New MTA: If anyone needs a New Year’s resolution, it’s the New York City subway system. With delays galore and platforms that turn into waterfalls on rainy days, the century-old urban rail network has a steep decline—and a $60 billion maintenance backlog—that it has to sort out. That sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But New York isn’t exactly broke, either.

With a gross metropolitan product of $1.7 trillion last year, the city just needs to find more creative ways to tap into its wealth to get its subway into better shape. That might include congestion pricing, rezoning, station sponsorships, and yes, clever taxes. Today on CityLab, John Surico runs through how the most robust economy in the world could scrounge up the cash to fix its transit system—plus some reasons why it has refused to implement them on a wide scale. Read his story: New York City Needs to Fix Its Subway. Here’s How to Pay For It.

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Berlin Protects Clubs and Nightlife—Why Doesn’t London?

If London doesn’t learn to value and protect nightlife, the city that birthed drum ‘n bass, the Rolling Stones, and Ronnie Scott’s will lose its diversity.

Sarah Wilson

The Global Legacy of Quebec’s Subsidized Child Daycare

With more than two decades behind it, the Quebec program that spawned an affordable child care model has some lessons for the rest of the world.

Molly McCluskey

The Timeless Bliss of Eating Hometown Food

For many holiday travelers, a trip back to where they grew up is a chance to revisit the local haunts they spend the rest of the year craving.

Hayley Glatter

Britain’s Big Border Fight Is All About the English Channel

In advance of “No Deal Brexit,” Britain’s watery southern border has been consumed by a weird shipping scandal and fear of a (nonexistent) tide of migrants.

Feargus O’Sullivan

In Columbus, Expectant Moms Will Get On-Demand Rides to the Doctor

To address high rates of infant mortality, the Ohio city will pilot a novel ride-hailing service designed for low-income pregnant women.

Laura Bliss


Turn a New Leaf

Baltimore’s tree canopy, mapped (Descartes Lab)

How many trees are in your city? It might seem like a straightforward question, but finding the answer can be a monumental task. New York City took nearly two years to complete its count of the 666,134 trees in its 2015-2016 tree census. Seattle’s won’t be done until at least 2024.

Such counts aren’t done in vain; in the short term, they help better maintain urban trees, and in the long run, they lay the foundation for addressing everything from climate change to public health. So a team of cartographers and applied scientists at geospatial analytics startup Descartes Labs is teaching a machine learning model to map trees from satellite imagery, revealing a green thumbprint of each city—like the map above of Baltimore and its surrounding leafy suburbs. CityLab’s Linda Poon has the story: Mapping City Trees With Artificial Intelligence


What We’re Reading

Chicago tried to dig its way out of urban flooding decades ago. Did it pick the wrong solution? (Slate)

In high-tech cities, no more potholes. But what about privacy? (New York Times)

Mod squad: The world’s most beautiful art deco buildings (The Guardian)

In shutdown, national parks turn into the Wild West (Washington Post)

The minimum wage is rising in 20 states and several cities (NPR)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Winter Is Coming, for Scooters

For the last three months, Michael Schultz and his girlfriend, Mia, have been making extra money working for Bird and Lime scooters in Denver. They’re part of the freelance workforce that gathers and charges the shared electric vehicles overnight. During a normal week, the couple spend a few hours each evening rolling around in his Jeep to collect the battery-powered e-scoots. Sometimes they make a Saturday out of the adventure, together pocketing about $75 an hour.

It’s starting to get colder and it’s already snowed in Denver a few times, but Schultz says business is still good. He still finds plenty of scooters that need their batteries charged. “They get used, rain or shine,” says Schultz, a 36-year-old who works as a DevOps engineer during the day. “Even snow doesn’t stop them.”

Living in Denver for the last 11 years and Boulder before that, Schultz knows the Coloradans have a reputation for enjoying all-season outdoor activities. If anything, the cold’s has been good for Schultz’s side hustle as a “Bird hunter” or “Lime juicer,” as the gig economy chargers for the two biggest scooter companies are called. “The competition has thinned out a lot because a lot of the chargers are fair-weather chargers,” says Schultz. “It’s actually making it easier for me.”

As winter formally arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, cities in colder climes are watching to see what plunging temperature and icy precipitation does to the nascent dockless scooter services that many municipalities added in 2018. This season marks the first year that these shared e-scooters will encounter a proper winter; so far, it’s hard to tell how well the transportation fad of the summer will survive the season.

Scooter operators such as Lime, Bird, Skip, Spin, Lyft, and Jump all have plans to continue to deploy scooters where they can, weather-permitting. The companies all have plans to monitor for cold temperatures, icy conditions, and snowfall, to pause service or remove scooters from the roads. It’s all a little vague, with promises to assess each day on a case-by-case basis, with local teams responding to the weather accordingly.

So far, Denver’s experience shows that, while e-scooters may be no one’s idea of ideal transportation in extreme winter conditions, they can still operate. Schultz, who’s active on charger forums on Reddit, says he has seen complaints from fellow chargers about scooters taking extra time to start charging when it’s around freezing. Others have encountered battery reading errors, where charge levels fluctuate from making available scooters because they appear low but then become unavailable for pick-up if they warm up. (The scooters become available for chargers once they reach a 20 percent reading.) Piles of snow can complicate drop-offs, when the chosen spot means leaving scooters in the snow instead of on the sidewalk.

That’s a lot of scooters. (Courtesy Michael Schultz)

Nationwide, the approach from departments of transportation and public works varies by city, but for the most part, the e-scooters are sticking around for the season. Pilots in Ann Arbor, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Washington, D.C., are set to continue, with some caveats about cautious use or pulling back during inclement weather. Boston and Seattle are holding off on their late arrival pilots until the spring, while the Twin Cities and Portland are suspending their pilots until next year. As their valuations cool with the temperatures, the scooter companies are trying to take this slowdown in stride: Bird has joked that the Minneapolis fleet will “fly south for the winter.”

As wintertime bike commuters know, this season provides formidable challenges for two-wheeled travelers; unplowed bike lanes and roads, early darkness, and beard-shattering cold all provide compelling reasons to choose heated, enclosed alternatives. That’s a shame, if you consider that one the main goals of scooters is that they are better for cities and the environment than cars. (And gas-powered cars get worse fuel economy in the winter.) As Eric Jaffe noted on CityLab back in 2016, cycling mode shares typically experience shrinkage in the cold. But we’re also seeing some signs that bike sharing has begun to turn that around: Motivate, which operates Citi Bike in New York, reports that it is seeing higher ridership in New York each winter.

For the e-scooters that do stick around, there are no plans to weatherize the scooters for icy conditions—sorry, tiny snow-tire makers. “Compared to other models, our scooters are better designed for shared use and built to withstand longer distances and harsher weather conditions,” a Lime spokesperson said in a statement to CityLab. “Even though our scooters are water resistant, we encourage riders to always put their safety first and use caution before riding in wet or icy conditions.”

In some of the smaller markets, such as college and university towns, there might just not be enough demand for scooters to merit winter deployment. “Realistically, the students are the majority of the consumers and once they head off for break, they city is not not going to want the scooters all over the sidewalks,” says Rebecca Grey, a medical insurance assistant who charges scooters for Bird in East Lansing, Michigan.

Grey expects the scooter work will be more seasonal. Her college town hasn’t even formalized an agreement with the companies, but it still sees spillover from Lansing, which is still considering its winter permit plans. Besides, the snow has already complicated drop-offs. “We got six inches of snow a couple weeks ago and [Bird] didn’t change the drop-off time and it didn’t give the city time to plow,” she says. “I still had to drop them in designated spot in the snow, but then I got marked down for leaving them on an uneven surface.”

But in bigger cities, scooter startups will be looking forward to testing their weather resistance. “While we’re building out our more robust fleet, Skip general managers [will] also closely monitor forecasts to determine the likelihood of snow and the presence of ice on the roads,” a Skip spokesperson wrote. That company is also throwing in some freebies for intrepid winter users. “Even in the cold, we know our scooters will remain essential in riders’ days, so in D.C., we’ll be giving away Skip winter gloves and hats to keep riders warm!”

The consumer specifications for the ubiquitous Xiaomi MS365 and Segway-Ninebot ES2 scooters—two models used by many scooter-sharing startups—provide a little guidance: The Segway-Ninebot sets its minimum operating temperature at 14 degrees F and minimum storage temperature at -4. But the scooters have not yet sat out for weeks at at a time in sustained freezing temps. (We reached out to Xiaomi and Segway by phone and email to address the scooters’ viability in the winter but haven’t yet received any comments.)

Cold weather can be a challenge for all electric vehicles, and the small size of scooters makes them even more vulnerable. “Lithium batteries don’t like extreme cold. Electric cars often heat their batteries, but in scooters it is not economical,” writes Assaf Biderman, founder and CEO of the e-bike firm Superpedestrian, in an email to CityLab. The company, which invented the Copenhagen Wheel, just announced that it’s getting into the scooter fleet supply business, promising studier vehicles and smarter batteries. “With the right battery sensing technologies and battery management computers,” he says, “scooters can provide both safe operation of the vehicle while providing good power to the rider.”

According to Isidor Buchmann of Cadex Electronic, who runs the website Battery University, even chilled batteries might not be as much of a problem as you would think. “The performance is less when it’s cold, the metabolism and the chemical reaction slows down, but it doesn’t damage the battery,” he says “When it warms, the power is restored.”

Basically, if people continue using the scooters, they will keep going—just more slowly. “It’s a little bit like your water faucet that’s got an obstruction. It just takes a little bit more to fill a glass of water,” Buchmann says.

So let it snow, wear a helmet, and take your time. “I bet people will ride scooters a lot for fun a lot less in the winter, but some people will do it out of necessity,” says Schultz, who predicts that his scooter-charging business will keep going in Denver’s winter wonderland. “It’s hard to take a bus for just a half mile. You walk two blocks to the bus stop, wait in the cold a few minutes, and then get stuck in traffic. At that point you might as well fly by everyone in traffic on a scooter.”

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: 2018 Was the Year of the Scooter

Albert Camus once likened absurdity to a man with a sword attacking a nest of a machine guns. But Camus never saw an electric scooter.

When these shared, dockless vehicles began to materialize in American cities early this year (the first scooters emerged late last year in Santa Monica), the erstwhile child’s toys seemed like a ridiculous answer to some very grown-up transportation challenges. But despite some initial dorky misgivings, e-scooters swiftly and silently inserted themselves into the American cityscape. Unlocked with smartphone apps from an array of happy-sounding four-letter startups with names like Lime, Bird, Skip, and Spin, scooters found riders among tourists, communities of color, couples, and kids. The scooter bro became a thing. Lazy people devised seating options.

By summer, hundreds of U.S. cities dared to pilot the idea, along with dozens around the world. Hiring gig-economy independent contractors to recharge the batteries overnight, some companies became financial unicorns that galloped to billion-dollar evaluations. Car-based mobility companies hitched a ride: Uber, Lyft, Google, and Ford all launched, partnered, or invested in scooter-based services. For the founder of the original Razor kickscoot, e-scootering was an urban dream rebooted and fulfilled, batteries included.

But the fad of the summer also generated a lot of pushback. Scooters blocked sidewalks and menaced pedestrians; vandals frequently targeted the vehicles and littered cities with broken machines. Others warned of safety issues: Doctors reported increased road injuries and the first fatal car-on-scooter crashes. The risks of plying pothole-riddled roads at 15 miles per hour on two tiny wheels won scooters a lot of detractors and regulatory enemies. More broadly, there was the notion that scootering was fundamentally a sideshow; the idea that these whimsical machines represented a viable means of tackling the problems of urban transportation—street congestion, climate emissions, and road deaths—seemed laughable.

In their podcast War on Cars, CityLab alum Sarah Goodyear, Streetsblog founder Aaron Naparstek, and Brooklyn Spoke’s Doug Gordon wondered if scooters were more a symptom of broader urban transportation woes rather than a solution. Goodyear mentioned that many urbanites react negatively to scooters because pedestrians are already “fighting for crumbs,” and scooters represent another incursion upon the sidewalk. Another problem: Politicians who have been unwilling to raise taxes or implement congestion pricing to pay for transit have let scooter companies basically run over them. “They’re never going to be a solution for the fact that one subway car in New York City carries thousands of people and one subway line carries hundreds of thousands of people every day,” Gordon said. “As much as I think they’re fun and represent this amazing front in the war on cars, I see it as symbol of a failure of American civic government to provide for its people.“

But outside urbanist and city planning circles, there’s another way of seeing scooters—as a kind of a conversational Trojan horse for talking about better ways to get around and plan our cities. Their polarizing presence turned wonky pet causes like curb space and road diets into everyday discussions. “So how do you feel about the scooters?” became my go-to question for Lyft and Uber drivers as we contemplated how, and if, these disruptive devices could co-exist with cars on public roads. It was easy to explain how scooters underscore the failures of safe-streets policy in American cities.

Indeed, many bike and complete streets advocates welcomed the e-scooter as a fellow traveler in the larger campaign against car-centric thinking. Dockless technology doubled the number of shareable two-wheeled vehicles on U.S. city streets overnight, reaching communities that traditional bikeshare had not. Scooters lured legions of non-bicyclists onto the streets and made them realize how valuable protected infrastructure would be. The major companies hired up big players from across the transit advocacy world to work with (and lobby) city leaders. Just this month, the North American Bikeshare Association, which represents the interests of bikeshare companies, declared, “if it fits in a bike lane, it fits [with us].”

But many questions remain about the long-term role of scooters, and what their presence does to other modes, from private cars to public transportation. In Portland, Oregon, scooters seemed to have complemented a public bikeshare program; in Austin, Texas, they might be undercutting it. There’s some evidence that car use goes down when scooters come to town: Lime’s end of year report says that 30 percent of its riders reported that the last trip they took with Lime replaced a car trip and 20 percent said their ride took them to or from public transit.

After a year of wild growth, scooter companies are now making promises to do their part to address their grown-up responsibilities of operating in cities: They’ve offered to give away free helmets, use geofencing to create no-go zones, make parking corrals, and help pay for bike lanes. But this is still a young and unruly mode. Here in D.C., I often see flocks of kids on scooters who’d found a way to dodge the in-app age verification checks. And who could fault kids for stretching the rules? It’s a lot of fun. But I’ve seen scooters nearly collide with bicyclists on bike paths, scooters dodging pedestrians on sidewalks and other vehicles on streets, scooters riding in defiant packs against traffic.

In this grand multimodal experiment, I wonder how many crashes it will take for this still auto-focused region—a city where motorists honked with anger at the dedication of a “ghost scooter” this summer—to decide to ban scooters instead of fixing the infrastructure that pushes people into harm’s way. If this souped-up toy has also unlocked new possibilities of where people feel they can go and what they could do, maybe it can also encourage city leaders to work on making places where people feel like they can fit. To paraphrase Camus again: In the midst of winter, can scooters find an invincible summer?

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: The Who’s Who of Urbanism

What We’re Following

Final examination: Anyone who loves cities and dreams of making them better can be an urbanist. But to be remembered for your contributions to the urban realm is a rarer proposition. Some people become shorthand for big ideas, like Le Corbusier or Jane Jacobs. Others don’t quite receive the recognition they deserve. The breadth of urbanism has also evolved over time, at once a field of academic study and an arena for artistic expression and social change.

In the latest installment of CityLab University, we present 15 biographies of people who designed and thought about cities—from Baron Haussmann to W.E.B. DuBois, Catherine Bauer Wurster to William H. Whyte—to fill out the historical perspective of urbanism. Taken together, these people build a larger story of how modern cities came to be. Today on CityLab: The Who’s Who of Urbanism

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Tokyo Wants People to Stand on Both Sides of the Escalator

When one side isn’t reserved for walkers, it saves time for everyone. But transit users around the world just can’t be convinced.

Linda Poon

How Machine Learning and AI Can Predict Gentrification

New research from the Urban Studies journal uses London as a test site to show how machine learning can predict which neighborhoods will gentrify next.

Richard Florida

Putting a Price on NIMBYism

A new Housing Policy Debate paper explores a deeply controversial idea: a cap-and-trade system for building affordable housing. Some New Jersey lawmakers want to give it a try.

Kriston Capps

How a Dallas Parking Lot Inspired a Play by William Jackson Harper

The Good Place star wrote Travisville after learning about a civil rights battle that displaced a black community near the Texas State Fair.

Amal Ahmed

The Criminal-Justice Bill Had Broad Bipartisan Support and Still Almost Died

The “permanent campaign” made some Republicans fear being cast as soft on crime.

Andrew Kragie


Dollar Menu

With about 30,000 stores across the country, dollar stores like Dollar General and Dollar Tree now outnumber Walmarts and McDonald’s, combined. The map above shows the spread of dollar stores since the recession, using data from a new research brief by the Institute of Local Self Reliance. Although these “small-box” retailers carry only a limited stock of prepared foods, the stores also now feed more people than Whole Foods—and it presents a catch-22 for neighborhoods that have “food deserts.”

Dollar stores have succeeded by capitalizing on economic and social forces that have opened up a gaping hole in food access, offering hard-to-beat low prices in overlooked neighborhoods. But they offer little in terms of fresh produce and nutritious items. Given that the absence of traditional grocers is deeply entwined with the history of spatial and structural inequality in America, dollar store savings might be making these communities, in some ways, a little poorer. CityLab’s Tanvi Misra takes a look at what it means when the closest grocery store is a dollar store.


What We’re Reading

Uber is resuming self-driving car tests on U.S. roads (Quartz)

How Instagram has been good for independent bookstores (Vox)

A humble weed grew in a cracked city sidewalk. Now it’s the Christmas Weed. (Washington Post)

Why billboards and outdoor ads are booming in the smartphone era (Curbed)

Winters are warming faster than summers. These U.S. cities could lose freezing days by 2050 (Vox)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Dig Your Crazy Tunnel, Elon!

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What We’re Following

Tunnel vision: We get it, putting a Tesla in a tunnel does not make a “train,” even if that’s what Elon Musk called it Tuesday night on Twitter. After his Boring Company took reporters on a bumpy ride through its mile-long tunnel beneath an industrial park near L.A., rail fans were either laughing or hanging their heads at Musk’s tendency to displace more proven, efficient modes of transit from conversation. But there’s one piece of the demonstration that’s hard to discard and that is the price: Musk said the demonstration tunnel cost only $10 million per mile to dig.

A Tesla Model X inside the Boring Company’s demonstration tunnel in Los Angeles. (Boring Company)

That figure excludes costs of research, development, and equipment, and it’s unclear how property acquisition or labor factor in. But even if this tunnel cost $50 million a mile, it would still be a fraction of what comparable projects cost, which have averaged between $200 million and $500 million per mile in the United States (and don’t forget the record-breaking $2.6 billion per mile New York paid for the Second Avenue Subway). If Musk’s company has made a boring machine that does the job cheaper and faster than what civil engineers thought possible, that could be a boon for underground transit systems in the United States, writes Laura Bliss. Today on CityLab: Dig Your Crazy Tunnel, Elon Musk!

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Fast-Growing Companies Prefer Vibrant Parts of Cities—and Suburbs

A new study finds that high-growth companies flock to neighborhoods that are more mixed-use and transit-accessible, whether in urban centers or suburbia.

Richard Florida

Can Parkour Teach Older People to ‘Fall Better’?

The sport isn’t just about extreme jumping. It also focuses on balance and agility, which are important for avoiding injury as people age.

Linda Poon

Archigram’s Radical Architectural Legacy

Three members of the ‘60s collective talk to author Darran Anderson about postmodernism, metabolism, their values, and watching the world catch up to them.

Darran Anderson

Oslo Metro Taps Zaha Hadid Architects for Its Expansion

The transit project is part of an effort not only to better connect a far-flung corner of the city, but to brand a development site as sleek and forward-looking.

Feargus O’Sullivan

In ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ an Ode to the Gas Lamp

The lamps that once lit London’s streets have come to symbolize a certain time and place in British history.

Jennifer Tucker


What We’re Reading

For one city manager, climate becomes a matter of conscience (NPR)

Back to the land: Are young farmers the new starving artists? (The Guardian)

San Francisco legalizes itself (Slate)

The dark history of Santa’s city: how Rovaniemi rose from the ashes (The Guardian)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: A Prayer for the Post Office

What We’re Following

Keep you posted: The United States Postal Service isn’t dying, though America’s relationship to the mail has changed. As the internet cuts down on letter-sending and stamp-buying, the USPS is carrying more packages than ever. It’s also one of the largest employers in the United States, and has the largest delivery reach, conveying 146 billion pieces of mail to 159 million delivery points this year. That hasn’t stopped rumors of privatization from re-emerging: President Donald Trump frequently criticizes the 242-year-old agency, and last month, the U.S. Department of Treasury released a Postal Task Force Report outlining a strategy that many postal workers and advocates read as a renewed push for privatization.

“The postal service now goes… to every single address, no matter who we are, where we live, what age, what gender, what nationality, what income group, or anything else,” says Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union. “There’s no way anybody can do that if it’s a question of profit. It has to be set up as a public service.”

Today on CityLab: Sarah Holder speaks with Dimondstein, who leads one of the seven unions representing postal workers, for a discussion about how the USPS is uniquely positioned to breach the urban-rural divide, what it’s doing differently in the age of e-commerce, and why it’s worth keeping it as a public good.

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

France’s Gas Tax Protests Should Be a Warning for California

A lesson from the “yellow vests” of Paris: Policies that reduce climate emissions at the expense of the economically disadvantaged are unsustainable.

Johanna Heyer

New York’s Plan to Enlist Bars in the Fight Against Sexual Harassment

Bills in the City Council would require nightlife venues to confront predatory behavior and provide bystander training for all employees.

Michael Stahl

For Rural Americans, Healthcare and Hospitals Can Be Far Away

A new Pew Research Center study finds rural Americans face longer travel times to hospitals and feel they have lower quality healthcare than urban residents.

Claire Tran

How Low Turnover Fuels New York City’s Affordable Housing Crisis

American Community Survey data shows that New Yorkers stay in apartments, including rent-regulated ones, for longer than most, leaving little room for newcomers.

Howard Husock

Her Neighbor Hated Her Dragon Nativity Scene. So She Got More Dragons.

A lesson in Christmastime neighborliness from South Louisiana.

Sarah Holder


Remember Your Roots

Each “cell” of color represents 100 immigrants, and each ring is a decade. (Northeastern University)

America’s immigration history can get pretty granular and complex. But the visualization above, produced by designers at Northeastern University, makes that story a bit more beautiful by using nature as a model: depicting immigration data as a colorful cross-section of a tree that thickens over time.

Borrowing the scientific technique of studying climatic and ecological change via tree rings, known as dendrochronology, this visual uses rings to represent decades, and each cell uses different colors to represent 100 immigrants arriving from different parts of the world between 1830 and 2015. The researchers also replicated the idea for smaller geographies and traditional immigrant gateways to get at where immigration has shaped the country the most. CityLab’s Tanvi Misra takes a look at a new way of seeing 200 years of American immigration.


What We’re Reading

The saddest Santa this Christmas is a mall Santa (Wall Street Journal)

Nashville’s star rises as midsize cities break into winners and losers (New York Times)

Denver’s density is causing trouble for its trains (Denver Post)

Why Oregon’s proposed zoning law would be good for biking (Sightline)

The Holland Tunnel Christmas decorations fiasco: Not a feel-good story (Slate)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: How Cities Could Make the Uber/Lyft IPO Pay Off

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What We’re Following

Taking stock: As Uber and Lyft race toward initial public offerings in 2019, the ride-hailing rivals will face a stark reality: Neither company is profitable. That could change, though, if the future of ride-hailing can be bolstered by local policies and partnerships.

As just one example, both companies openly support the policy of congestion pricing—attaching a user fee to roads in high-traffic urban centers, fluctuating at different times of the day. That kind of policy would meet some cities’ goals of mitigating traffic, reducing emissions, and paying for public transit—and if it adds new barriers to personal car use, it could mean more people seeking out ride-sharing services. CityLab’s Laura Bliss has the story on the policy that will make the Uber/Lyft IPO pay off.

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Rebuilding a City from the Eye of a Child

The ambitious mayor of Tirana, Albania, is selling a wary constituency on economic transformation by putting kids at the forefront of his agenda.

Feargus O’Sullivan

A New Way of Seeing 200 Years of American Immigration

To depict how waves of immigrants shaped the United States, a team of designers looked to nature as a model.

Tanvi Misra

The New Stars of a NYC Subway Station: Very Good Doggos

Artist William Wegman’s famous Weimaraners are now immortalized in mosaics in the New York subway.

Mark Byrnes

Why Apple Bet on Austin’s Suburbs for Its Next Big Expansion

By adding thousands more jobs outside the Texas capital, Apple has followed a tech expansion playbook that may just exacerbate economic inequality.

Sarah Holder

Mapping the Subprime Car Loan Crisis

A new tool by the Urban Institute maps the geography of car loan debt and delinquency.

Tanvi Misra


Lose Yourself

Leave it to a city council to remind you why every vote matters, especially if you’re running. Earlier this month, Cliff Farmer of Hoxie, Arkansas, missed an opportunity to vote for himself in a runoff election that ended in a 223-to-223 draw, the New York Times reports.

Farmer lost to the incumbent, Becky Linebaugh, by tie-breaking a roll of the dice. But there were so many missed chances to break the tie earlier as he went on an all-expenses-paid work trip that flew back on Election Day: Here’s an excerpt:

Mr. Farmer had also tried to vote before leaving for the trip, he said, but early voting at the local courthouse had shorter hours than in the days before the general election, during which he had voted early.

“It wasn’t like I thought, ‘Hey I’m just going to party in Florida and forget this vote,’” he said.

Despite his inability to cast his own ballot, the importance of each and every vote hadn’t been lost on Mr. Farmer, who urged his wife, Sara Farmer, to make sure her voice was heard.

“He told me, ‘Make sure you vote — if I lose by one vote, it’s going to be on you,’” Ms. Farmer, who voted early herself, said in an interview Wednesday.

Read the full story in the New York Times.


What We’re Reading

U.S. edges higher again on homelessness after seven years of declines (Wall Street Journal)

A delivery robot burst into flames on Berkeley’s campus, and students held a candlelit vigil (Business Insider)

The pedestrians strike back (New York Times)

America’s hottest zoning debate is coming to Oregon (Slate)

Donors to London’s abandoned garden bridge want their money back (The Guardian)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: So You Want to Be a Night Mayor

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What We’re Following

Night moves: If you’ve heard of “night mayors,” you might imagine a dream job that finally puts your “work hard, play hard” mantra to good use. But it’s not the party you think it is. For one thing, you’re nothing like an actual mayor—hence the preference for toned-down titles like “director of the office of nightlife.” The gig is decidedly bureaucratic, dealing with noise complaints, business licensing, congested corridors, parking challenges, rats… the list goes on. But as more U.S. cities are seeing value in that kind of job, we wanted to know: What, exactly, does it take to be a successful liaison between nightlife and city hall?

“What the night mayor does is actually city planning after dark,” says Mirik Milan, Amsterdam’s former night mayor, and the world’s first. But ultimately, the job’s key qualification is being a good listener, and understanding how to help the community and its regulators speak the same language. CityLab’s Linda Poon spoke with several nightlife officials around the U.S. about what it means to oversee a city after dark. Read her story: So You Want to Be a Night Mayor?

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Why Is It Legal for Landlords to Refuse Section 8 Renters?

San Jose and Baltimore are considering bills to prevent landlords from rejecting tenants based on whether they are receiving federal housing aid. Why is that necessary?

Kriston Capps

How Urban Core Amenities Drive Gentrification and Increase Inequality

A new study finds that as the rich move back to superstar cities’ urban cores to gain access to unique amenities they drive low-income people out.

Richard Florida

Norway’s Energy-Positive Building Spree Is Here

Oslo’s Powerhouse collective wants buildings that make better cities in the face of climate change.

Tracey Lindeman

Reading Between The Lines of Montreal’s ‘Cheap’ Rents

Compared to Toronto and Vancouver, Montreal’s real estate market looks enviable—but its rents are shaped by factors other cities can’t replicate.

Emma Jacobs

The Case for Architecture Classes in Schools

Through the organization Architecture for Children, Hong Kong architect Vicky Chan has taught urban design and planning to thousands of kids. Here’s why.

Mary Hui


Más Transit

In Monday’s edition, we asked readers to weigh in on the quality of their cities’ tacos and transit, based on what started as a silly idea on Twitter—and, well, you delivered. With more than 1,000 responses, CityLab’s David Montgomery graphed how CityLab readers feel about these two critical metrics of a strong city. The results for cities that received more than 10 votes are shown above. Who knew people felt so good about their cities’ tacos? Transit… well, that’s another story.


What We’re Reading

The Amazon invasion of New York and Virginia will be slow (Wall Street Journal)

Dr. Elon & Mr. Musk: inside Tesla’s production hell (Wired)

The criminal justice reform bill is both historic and disappointing (New Republic)

HUD took over a town’s housing authority 22 years ago. Now the authority’s broke and residents are being pushed out. (ProPublica)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Why Can’t Uber and Lyft Be More Wheelchair-Friendly?

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What We’re Following

An easier ride: Getting around a city like New York is a daily challenge for someone who uses a wheelchair. Less than a quarter of the city’s subway stations are accessible and its door-to-door paratransit is too often a no-show. While most can hop in an Uber or Lyft when the bus is late, a dearth of properly outfitted vehicles makes ride-hailing services implausible for wheelchair users: Of nearly 118,000 active ride-hailing vehicles in the city, only 554 (0.5 percent) are wheelchair-accessible, according to a recent study that cites the city’s data. The takeaway: The unreliability of locating and waiting for a vehicle renders the services “useless” to wheelchair users.

Ride-hailing companies say they want to help change this. Last month, for example, Uber announced a partnership with one of the country’s largest paratransit providers. But the ride-hailing app has also argued in court that it is a technology company, not a transportation provider, and is therefore not subject to transportation-related measures in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Accessibility advocates say the company can take some clear steps toward improving things: “Instead of spending $100 million to defend a lawsuit, put a hundred vehicles on the road,” one advocate says. “Show that you’re trying to make progress.” Today on CityLab: Ride-Hailing’s Long Road to Accessibility

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

The Fire Trucks Are Too Damn Big

Smaller heavy-duty emergency vehicles could save a lot of lives, says a new Department of Transportation report.

Laura Bliss

Urban Flooding Is Worryingly Widespread in the U.S., But Under-Studied

When flooding occurs in a small town or just part of a city, it doesn’t register like a big disaster does, according to the first-ever nationwide assessment.

Linda Poon

Revisiting Architect Paul Rudolph’s Hong Kong Years

A new exhibit highlights the Modernist architect’s little-known designs made while working in Asia.

Mark Byrnes

Parents Are Biased Against Even Quality ‘Urban’ Schools

Many of these schools are improving, but the persistent stigma against them contributes to segregation.

Alia Wong

City Frogs Are the Sexiest Frogs

Two new studies show how certain animals can adapt to the din of human activity in surprising ways.

Ed Yong


Oh, Christmas Tree

Last year, Rome’s city Christmas tree was pretty ghastly. This year’s might be even ghastlier. (Tony Gentile/Reuters)

Getting it together by the holidays has always been one way to signal that an institution, whether it’s a municipality or a family, is functioning properly. Last year, Rome learned that the hard way when its 65-foot Christmas tree drooped sadly and was pronounced dead a week before the holiday. It was nicknamed Spelacchio, which in Italian translates to either “mangy” and “bald.”

As Charlie Brown learned, screwing up the tree can be a springboard to bigger problems. Cities worldwide have long had to deal with the fallout from coniferous fails—from Reading, Pennsylvania’s pretzel-topped failure in a state full of evergreens to a notorious Paris installation that looked like an adult toy. A word of advice to cities: Just get a real tree. CityLab’s Sarah Holder has the roundup on all the many ways cities screw up their Christmas trees.


What We’re Reading

London’s mayor declares “climate emergency” (The Guardian)

The behavioral economics behind Citi Bike’s bike angels (NPR)

How Sesame Street takes on homelessness (New York Times)

Amazon warehouse employees in NYC launch unionization push (Bloomberg)

The Republican civil war over criminal justice reform, explained (Vox)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Can Poletown Come Back After GM?

What We’re Following

Motor City shuffle: Last month, General Motors announced plans to shut down its Detroit-Hamtramck plant, one of only two remaining auto plants in the Motor City, named for its location straddling the border of the two cities. Much to GM’s annoyance, almost everyone else has always called the plant “GM Poletown,” after the Detroit neighborhood that was bulldozed using eminent domain to build the facility. That’s a legacy that the automaker might be happy to forget. But Detroiters old enough to remember are asking once again whether the destruction of Poletown was worth it.

A new documentary, Poletown Lives!, captures the resistance mounted in 1981 to stop the razing of homes, businesses, and churches. “This is America, not Russia,” raged one retiree at a public meeting the city held to explain how the neighborhood’s 4,200 residents were to be relocated. “We’re not going to let you do this. We’re going to fight like hell.” (Here’s a preview of the film, which airs Thursday on Detroit Public Television.)

The saga offers a larger lesson for cities about sacrifice on the altar of economic development. Today, the area is little more than a grid of streets laid over a barren landscape that on some blocks feels almost rural. Now that the plant is shutting down, some residents are hoping there’s still a chance to resurrect Poletown. Today on CityLab: If GM Shuts Down This Plant, Can The Community It Destroyed Come Back?

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

How Corporate Tax Incentives Rob Public School Budgets

A new Good Jobs First study shows that corporate tax incentives—like those given for Amazon HQ2—have diverted almost $2 billion from public schools.

Sarah Holder

How Cities Design Themselves

Urban planner Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order Without Design, argues that cities are really shaped by market forces, not visionaries.

Nolan Gray

California’s Battle Against Climate Change Is Going Up in Smoke

The 2018 wildfire season released emissions equal to a year of the state’s power use.

Rosa Furneaux

Mayors Should Take a Stand Against a Future Amazon HQ2

Calling on federal government to regulate economic incentives is a cop-out. It’s time for America’s big cities and mayors to stand up to companies like Amazon.

Richard Florida

Why Wisconsin Will Drug Test SNAP Recipients

As Governor Scott Walker and other GOP lawmakers exit office, they’re leaving behind a bill that seeks to stigmatize food aid, a political scientist says.

Emily Moon


Side of a seesaw

(Alexandra Marvar)

Can a playground memorialize the damage a highway caused to a community? That’s what conceptual artist Derrick Adams evokes with “America’s Playground.” The interactive installation pays homage to Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, which was nearly destroyed in the 1960s by an extension of Interstate 95. The highway tore through an established black community, cutting it off from the more affluent parts of the city. With a mirror-image playground—one side stark and monochromatic, the other awash in color—the piece focuses on a surprising consequence of the highway project: the erosion of a community park. Today on CityLab: Remembering How a Highway Gutted a Bastion of Black Miami


What We’re Reading

How Amazon Prime will change the way our cities look (Boston Globe)

The rise of the architect-developer (Curbed)

California will require solar panels on all new homes (Next City)

Hundreds of complaints flood in about New York store signs, but from whom? (New York Times)

Apologies for yesterday’s broken link. Here’s this one again: Inside the Philadelphia DA’s side hustle: selling seized homes to speculators and cops (PlanPhilly)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: The Big Stakes in a Fight Over a Little Park

What We’re Following

Grand ole swap-me: Over the last decade, few U.S. cities have transformed as profoundly as fast-growing Nashville. Amidst glittering new condo towers, average monthly rents jumped by more than 60 percent metro-wide from 2011 to 2017. As housing costs squeeze out residents with fewer means, homelessness has also shot up.

Now, a controversial land-swap proposal is demanding some soul-searching on the part of city leaders. A prominent developer wants to build condos on top of Church Street Park, a public space in the heart of downtown that’s the subject of frequent complaints among the general population, partly due to its popularity among homeless individuals. In exchange for the land, the developer would give the city an equally sized parcel on the edge of downtown, plus roughly $7 million in green space investments and an offer to build the city’s planned homeless service center, with 100 units of permanent housing, at cost.

Supporters say it’s a win-win for parks and shelter. But detractors say the deal-sweeteners distract from what’s really at stake: the city’s sense of public life, and a stance on homelessness that tends to push needy people out. Read my story on CityLab: The Big Stakes in a Fight Over a Little Park in Nashville

Laura Bliss


More on CityLab

Why Minneapolis Just Made Zoning History

The ambitious Minneapolis 2040 plan will encourage more dense housing development in single-family neighborhoods.

Kriston Capps

On Oahu, a Debate Over Honolulu’s ‘Monster’ Homes

Critics say the massive homes are code-dodging rentals. Others say space for extended-family home-share is necessary to manage the high home prices in Hawaii.

Kathleen M. Wong

Inside a Mexico City ‘Market On Wheels’

Why the roving vendors of Ruta 6, one of Mexico City’s Mercado Sobre Ruedas keep at their craft, and maintain customers despite the rise of Walmart.

Feike de Jong and Gustavo Graf

How Cities Can Lead on Climate Change Solutions

The latest United Nations climate change report paints a dire picture, but IPCC co-chair Debra Roberts says urban residents have a critical role to play in addressing the crisis.

Ian Klaus

The ‘Sweeping’ Effect of a $15-an-Hour Job Guarantee

A new report analyzes the complicated labor market impact of a radical proposal that’s gaining traction on the left.

Tanvi Misra


Taco the town

(Carter Rubin)

Does your city’s transit system live más? Do taco trucks rule the streets? Last week, Carter Rubin, a mobility and climate advocate at the National Resources Defense Council, posed an all-important question to Twitter: How does your city rank on tacos and transit? With emoji-based crowdsourcing, Rubin got a sampling of answers ranging from Baltimore to Barcelona. But we wanted to add a dash of data to cook up our own results and find out what, if anything, the two might have to do with one another.

So CityLab data reporter David Montgomery put out a poll and we’ve received over 700 responses so far. Now it’s your turn, readers. We want to know: Where does your city fall on the tacos vs. transit scale? Take our fast three-question poll and CityLab will plot the results!


What We’re Reading

Your apps know where you were last night, and they’re not keeping it secret (New York Times)

How Santa Monica, the birthplace of dockless electric scooters, is shaping the multibillion dollar industry (Curbed)  

Inside the Philadelphia DA’s side hustle: selling seized homes to speculators and cops (PlanPhilly)

The housing boom is already gigantic. How long can it last? (New York Times)


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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Is Climate-Positive Design Possible?

Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.

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What We’re Following

Can it be done?: Cities consume more than two-thirds of global energy and account for at least 70 percent of carbon emissions, and that means they have an enormous task ahead of them in the fight against climate change. With less than three years to deliver on the commitments made in the Paris climate agreement, it’s going to take unprecedented actions—Banning combustion engines! Solar panels on every roof!—to meet the goals. But that still only gets us halfway there, one sustainability specialist estimates.

The hard but necessary work is to revamp cities so they cancel out the carbon they emit. Some designers and advocates are pushing for what they call climate-positive design, which requires redesigning neighborhoods, buildings, and transportation networks to reduce and absorb carbon. And technological changes aren’t the biggest hurdle standing in the way—getting to a net-zero design at a holistic scale will rely more on policy and bureaucratic changes, but progress on those so far has moved slowly. Today on CityLab: Is “Climate-Positive” Design Possible?

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

For California Housing Advocates, It’s ‘Literally the YIMBY-est Year’

The state’s lawmakers are getting serious about removing the most serious roadblock to building new affordable housing.

Kriston Capps

Amazon HQ2 and the ‘Gentrification of Jobs’

Amazon has said each HQ2 site will result in 25,000 jobs. Will the working-class benefit? Will Amazon train locals for future employment?

Sarah Holder

Philadelphia Could Be Next To Provide Lawyers For Low-Income Tenants

A new report shows that by investing in representation for low-income tenants facing eviction, the city could save more than $45 million.

Karim Doumar

Luxembourg’s New Deal: Free Transit and Legal Weed

It’s not just public transit: The Grand Duchy’s progressive new government also raised the minimum wage and gave everyone two extra days off.

Feargus O’Sullivan

America’s Power Grid Isn’t Ready for Electric Cars

The challenge isn’t just about how much energy electric vehicles will need. A more important question is when they’ll need it.

F. Todd Davidson, Dave Tuttle, Joshua D. Rhodes, and Kazunori Nagasawa


Love, Actually

More than half of New Yorkers view Amazon’s plan to open a headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, as a blessing, not a curse. In fact, a new Quinnipiac University poll finds that despite the controversy surrounding the company’s selection process, only 26 percent of New York residents disapprove of the deal.

But as you can see above, Amazon enthusiasm varies a lot by borough. The city is a bit more evenly divided on the $3 billion in subsidies given to the mega-online retailer. Meanwhile, Manhattan residents were most skeptical of the deal, with 16 percent more respondents disapproving than approving of the city’s tax incentives. But in Queens, residents not only welcome HQ2’s arrival to their borough; more people actually approve of the tax incentives than disapprove, with a plus 16 percent net approval. CityLab’s Sarah Holder and David Montgomery crunched the numbers: Why New Yorkers Actually Support Amazon HQ2


What We’re Reading

Are rural voters the “real” voters? Wisconsin Republicans seem to think so (New York Times)

What Chicago’s voters can look forward to in a very crowded mayoral election (ProPublica)

Seattle’s population is booming, except where it’s shrinking (Next City)

Watch AI conjure an entire city from scratch (Fast Company)

Architects build gingerbread city to whet appetite for design (Reuters)


Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to hello@citylab.com.